Arlington, VA

A U.S. Postal Inspector was seen inspecting the drop-off mailboxes outside of the N. George Mason Drive Post Office Tuesday, as resident complaints about missing and stolen mail continue.

The mailboxes were reportedly taped off after the inspector’s visit Tuesday morning, which was witnessed by an ARLnow editor. A sign said the mailboxes were “out of order.”

A Nextdoor post about it quickly garnered numerous replies.

“Too many problems with mail being stolen!” said one reply. “This has been going on for years, and I’m glad they’ve finally closed the boxes.”

“NEVER use the George Mason Post Office,” said another. “They’ve been riddled with problems for a long time.”

“As others have said, there has been mail theft there (particularly with the drop box) for nearly a year,” said yet another. “I am happy they finally closed off the box because I still see reports here about mail theft 9 months after our outgoing mail was stolen.”

Other complaints about the post office in the thread — and in dozens of replies to a similar Nextdoor post from July — include missing and undelivered mail.

ARLnow is aware of at least three reports of mail stolen from the boxes outside the post office at 2200 N. George Mason Drive, which serves the 22207 zip code, over the past year or so.

In one case, a tipster said he or she had a thief attempt to cash or deposit more than $35,000 in checks from a business account, though the fraud was caught by the bank before losses were incurred. The incident happened after business mail was dropped off at one of the mailboxes outside.

On Nextdoor, another resident said a thief “took $5,000 out of my IRA account” by altering a $100 check written to a charity, which was deposited “in one of the two drive-by mailboxes outside the post office on George Mason Drive.”

Yet another Nextdoor poster said he also had a check “diverted from this post office… that someone forged and attempted to cash.”

Other residents complained about a lack of information about what’s going on, despite numerous complaints filed with the U.S. Postal Service and Arlington County.

“As far as I know, there has been no communication to the public, which I personally find ethically negligent,” said one resident.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service did not respond to an inquiry from ARLnow in January. Contacted again this week for more information, a spokesman would only confirm that ARLnow’s photo depicted a postal inspection officer at work.

“I can confirm the individual in the photograph is a US Postal Inspector, working hard to ensure the safety of the US Mail,” Michael Martel, Public Information Officer for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, wrote. “Postal Inspectors have access to USPS infrastructure for a variety of reasons including preventative security measures and during the course of an investigation.”

“If anyone suspects their mail has been stolen, or see suspicious activity near a Post Office or blue collection box, they can report it to Postal Inspectors at 1-877-876-2455,” Martel added.

A flyer with mail security tips, provided by Martel, advises postal customers to “use the letter slots inside your Post Office for your mail, or hand it to a letter carrier,” and to “pick up your mail promptly after delivery… don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight.”

Residents on Nextdoor said even employees of the post office appeared to be in the dark this week.

“When I went in to ask what’s going on, my favorite clerk… was very frustrated and said they were not getting answers themselves,” said one resident.

“Something’s rotten in Denmark at the George Mason Post Office,” said another.

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Bold posters inscribed with “Black Lives Matter” prompted a raucous symphony of honks from passing traffic at a busy Arlington intersection.

The conductor directing the clamor at Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive on a weekday evening last week was Bob Edgar, who is no stranger to advocacy.

Edgar and his son Leteane Monatsi, along with a handful of supporters, have been drawing attention for weeks — in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd — by waving flags and signs saying “Black Lives Matter,” “HONK” and “Together We Rise.” In light of the death of civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the pair also added a sign saying, “Honor John Lewis.”

The father and son duo, both in motorized wheelchairs, are committed to spreading their message and have protested at the intersection since the death of Floyd on May 25 and plan to keep coming out to the intersection for many months to come. They’ve been at it despite sweltering temperatures and the ongoing pandemic.

“We thought the best way to express our feelings was by coming to this street corner,” said Edgar. “Our whole intent in doing this is really to keep the issue of Black Lives Matter in front of people in this area.”

When the pair initially started coming out to the street corner during the evening rush hour, Edgar said they had “no idea how people would respond.” However, the most common reaction to their demonstration was to honk in support. From there, the pair added a bold “HONK” sign to encourage the response.

“We call this the Million Honk March,” said Edgar.

He said on an average day they will hear hundreds or even thousands of horn honks, ranging from a single honk to “going berserk.”

Edgar and Monatsi have gained some recognition since they began appearing at the intersection. As they go to and from their house, people will stop them on the street, eager to talk about issues, according to Edgar.

“It’s rewarding because we’re doing something that we think is a modest contribution,” said Edgar.

Edgar, a retired Howard University professor, has taken part in many movements over the years. He got his start protesting the Vietnam War, and then began working on South African issues and anti-apartheid demonstrations.

Edgar wants people who drive by to think about what their “Black Lives Matter” banner signifies at this moment in history, and what the country has gone through to get to this point in time.

“It’s not only about Black lives mattering now, but it’s about the history of our country,” said Edgar. “We’re addressing historical legacies as well as the present.”

Photo by Madeline Taylor

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(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Homes and businesses in several north Arlington neighborhoods were without power late Wednesday afternoon.

The outages, roughly centered around Virginia Hospital Center, were reported after the fire department was dispatched to the intersection of N. George Mason Drive and Washington Blvd for a report of a utility pole on fire.

As of 4:30 p.m., Dominion was now reporting about 1,775 customers without electricity as a result of the outage, which extended from the Yorktown neighborhood to the north to the Bluemont neighborhood in the south.

A similar pole fire prompted a fire department response in the Penrose neighborhood on Monday, as seen below.

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Morning Notes

APS Statement on George Floyd — “The tragic death of George Floyd and many others before him, as well as the events that have unfolded since, are bringing into stark focus the pervasive injustice and inequality that African Americans face every day in our society from systemic and institutionalized racism. As Superintendent and the School Board, we acknowledge the anger and hurt that our APS community and the nation are experiencing, especially our African American community.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Fort Myer on High Alert — “The Pentagon has ordered forces and bases in the Washington D.C. area to ‘Force Protection Condition Charlie,’ a threat condition that indicates ‘likely’ targeting of military forces and or terrorist action and the second highest alert level available.” [Newsweek]

Crash on George Mason Drive — From Tuesday afternoon: “Lanes blocked on S. George Mason Drive near the intersection with Columbia Pike due to crash. One person with minor injuries was reported to be trapped in a vehicle, requiring extrication.” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Hundreds Protest Along George Mason Drive — Hundreds of people lined George Mason Drive Monday evening to protest racism and support Black Lives Matter. The protest was organized by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington. [Twitter, Twitter]

Break-in at Claremont Elementary — “At approximately 12:30 a.m. on May 31, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary alarm. Arriving officers observed four suspects inside of a building and established a perimeter. While clearing the building, the four suspects were located on the roof and taken into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]

Local GOP Amps Up Social Media Presence — “The Arlington County Republican Committee often has a hard time competing with its Democratic counterpart at the ballot box. But the local GOP is working to win the battle of social media. Local Republicans recently announced that Taylor Jack, a rising senior at James Madison University, has joined the party’s public-relations team.” [InsideNova]

Beyer’s GOP Challenger Selected — “The candidate who positioned himself as the more conservative in the field emerged the victor and will become the Republican challenger in a decidedly uphill battle to unseat U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th). Jeff Jordan defeated Mark Ellmore in the 8th District Republican Committee convention.” [InsideNova]

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Demonstrators will line George Mason Drive near Route 50 tonight to protest in support of Black Lives Matter.

The peaceful protest, organized by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, is set to take place from 5-6 p.m. Monday.

More from an event page:

Please join UUCA in creating a line of witness along George Mason Dr (4444 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA) on Monday, June 1, from 5-6pm. We will gather in the church parking lot. Please note, the church building will not be open.

We wish to observe safe social distancing so we will be standing six feet apart simply holding up signs of support. Please feel free to make your own sign, or you may pick up signs in the church parking lot. Please pass the word along to anyone you know who may wish to join us.

We have a right to peaceful protest, but we must be respectful of people on the sidewalks and not create a barrier. Recognize that you are joining what could be a risky situation and make personal choices as you see fit.

The event page also includes the following statement from the Arlington Interfaith Network about the death of Floyds and “others killed for being black in America.”

This week, we saw the murder of George Floyd. We say the name of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Jordan Davis, and so many others killed for being black in America.

Our diverse faith traditions share a common belief in the integrity of human life.

We share a practice of lament for the places where people cry out. We share a hope that our collective actions can point us to a better, more whole world.

The Arlington Interfaith Network writes in recognition of the “original sin” of racism that built this country from slave labor and dominion over Native lives.

We recognize that the systems that govern us every day and the way our society is arranged perpetuates injustice. We recognize that white supremacy is something that all of us with privilege participate in daily.

We write in knowing that faith communities with privilege need to use their place to have sacred conversations on race and work for real change.

We write in recognition of the pain that clergy of color minister hold continually and that all in their communities bear in a particular way.

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(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) A large tree has fallen and is completely blocking the intersection of Yorktown Blvd and N. George Mason Drive.

Police and firefighters are on the scene. The tree reportedly also brought down power lines at the intersection, which is just down the street from Yorktown High School.

Drivers should expect detours in the area while crews work to remove the tree from the roadway. Eastbound traffic on Yorktown Blvd is being diverted onto 28th Street N., near the high school, according to scanner traffic.

Pedestrian traffic from the high school may also be re-routed.

Separately, further down Yorktown Blvd from the fallen tree, Arlington County firefighters were on the scene of a possible gas leak at Nottingham Elementary as of 1:30 p.m. The school was evacuated while firefighters investigated a reported gas odor.

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Morning Notes

Crows Are Swarming Rosslyn at Dusk — “As the sun begins to sink below the horizon, ghostly caws and flapping wings echo through the air. Then, they come in droves. Hundreds, if not thousands, of huge, black birds darken the sky, swooping through buildings and swarming like giant gnats. This Hitchcockian scene is a typical Tuesday in North Rosslyn.” [Washingtonian]

New Candidate for School BoardCristina Diaz-Torres has announced that she is running for Arlington School Board to replace Tannia Talento, who is not seeking a second term. Diaz-Torres is planning a campaign launch event on Columbia Pike this Sunday. [Twitter, Facebook]

Arlington Residents Are Up at All Hours — “The massive Nov. 8 water-main break underneath Chain Bridge Road taught Arlington public-works officials a number of lessons. Among them: Some county residents are up and at ’em in the wee hours of the morning. The county government received its first call complaining of no water at 2:59 a.m., a mere three minutes after the rupture of the 36-inch, 75-year-old pipe.” [InsideNova]

More on GMU Arlington Campus Expansion — “As George Mason University leaders celebrate the 40th anniversary of the school’s Arlington campus, they promise that its Amazon-inspired expansion will be ‘unlike any building ever built’ by a state institution.” [Washington Business Journal]

Upgrades for 911 Call Center — “The County’s 9-1-1 call processing system was upgraded today! Our staff are thrilled to have made the switch to this top of the line system that will allow us to best collaborate with neighboring jurisdictions and serve the community.” [Twitter]

NORAD Exercises Planned Tonight — “Don’t be frightened if you see and hear military aircraft speeding overhead… The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is expected to conduct air exercises over the Washington area from Thursday night into early Friday morning. Flights are scheduled between midnight and 5:30 a.m.” [WTOP]

Five Year Anniversary of Streetcar Cancellation — “Five years ago this week – Nov. 18, 2014 – County Board Chairman Jay Fisette stood somewhat grimly in front of a microphone and TV cameras to announce that Arlington officials were abandoning plans for a streetcar system in the Columbia Pike corridor.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Food Star to Open in Bailey’s Crossroads — “A Food Star grocery store is opening up in the former Toys R Us building at 5521 Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads – possibly by the end of the year.” [Annandale Blog]

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Construction is progressing at the new Lubber Run Community Center & Park (300 N. Park Drive), with crews currently working to widen the sidewalk in front of the property.

As a result, a lane closure will start next week along S. George Mason Drive. One lane along N. George Mason Drive between the Carlin Springs Road bridge and Park Drive will close starting Monday, November 11, per the project website.

The lane will reopen in mid-December, depending on construction progress. Barriers will be installed in the meantime to allow for safe pedestrian travel.

The approximately $48 million project will result in a new gymnasium, walking track, fitness center, and multi-purpose rooms, according to project manager Peter Lusk.

“It is still on-schedule for a late 2020 opening,” Lusk said.

The original community center was built in 1956. When the county closed the old building last year, they gave people a change to decorate its walls with art ahead of the demolition.

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Another evening rush hour crash is causing significant backups, this time on N. George Mason Drive, south of Ballston.

A reported “head-on” crash on George Mason, near the intersection of 2nd Road N., has prompted police to close the northbound lanes of George Mason Drive at Route 50.

Two ambulances have been dispatched to the scene for reports of non-life-threatening injuries.

A witness said via Twitter that one of the vehicles “jumped the median and hit a car traveling northbound at 2nd Road N.”

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Arlington County Police are investigating two fatal pedestrian-involved crashes that happened last week.

The first occurred Wednesday morning at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive. The victim, a 77-year-old Arlington resident, died Thursday, police announced over the weekend.

More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Critical Accident Team (CAT) is investigating a now fatal pedestrian crash that occurred on Wednesday, June 12 at the intersection of Columbia Pike and South Four Mile Run Drive.

At approximately 9:27 a.m., police responded to the area for the report of an accident with injury involving a pedestrian. Officers and medics arrived on scene and located the female victim suffering from serious injuries and rendered aid. The pedestrian was transported to an area hospital in critical condition. The preliminary investigation indicates that the victim was crossing the westbound lanes of Columbia Pike against the walk signal when she was struck by an oncoming vehicle. The driver of the striking vehicle remained on scene and detectives interviewed multiple witnesses.

The pedestrian, identified as Martha Saltos, 77, of Arlington, Va. was transported to an area hospital in critical condition. She later succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased on June 13.

Anyone who may have witnessed this crash or has additional information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Detective S. Lafley at [email protected] or 703-228-4052. Information may also be reported anonymously to Arlington County Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS.

The second fatal crash happened Friday night, on N. George Mason Drive near Virginia Hospital Center. A 66-year-old Arlington man died from his injuries after being struck by a vehicle.

Also from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Critical Accident Team is investigating a fatal pedestrian crash that occurred in the 1700 block of N. George Mason Drive.

At approximately 10:51 p.m. on Friday, June 14, police responded to the report of a crash involving a pedestrian. The pedestrian, identified as Robert Bramwell, 66, of Washington D.C., was transported to an area hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased.

Based on the preliminary investigation, it is believed that the pedestrian entered the roadway outside the crosswalk and did not have the right-of-way at the time of the crash. The driver of the striking vehicle remained on scene and is cooperating with the investigation.

This remains on ongoing investigation and anyone with additional information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective T. Parsons at [email protected] or 703-228-4172. To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).

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